Five Criminal Law Terms You Should Know

For those who are not familiar with criminal proceedings in North Dakota and Minnesota, being charged with a crime and running through the criminal justice process can be a new and terrifying experience. Part of what makes this experience so nerve-wracking is the use of terms and phrases with which you may not be familiar. Some of the more commonly used but misunderstood terms include:

Arraignment: The arraignment hearing is the hearing at which you formally enter a plea to the charges filed against you. If you guilty to your charges, the court may find you guilty of the charges. Thereafter, the court will usually proceed with sentencing that same day.  If you plead not guilty to one or more of the charges filed against you, then your case will usually be set for another hearing, typically either an evidentiary hearing, a preliminary hearing, or a status hearing and eventually it will be set for trial.

Miranda Rights: Your Miranda rights are rights that law enforcement officers must advise you of prior to questioning you in a custodial setting (i.e., after placing you under arrest). These rights include your right to remain silent and your right to consult with an attorney at any time before or during questioning.

Alford Plea: An Alford plea, also known as a no contest or nolo contendere is a plea available in in certain situations. By pleading via Alford plea,  you are not admitting that you committed the crime(s) with which you are charged but you are acknowledging that the prosecution has sufficient evidence available with which it could prove your guilt beyond a reasonable doubt (this may assist you if you are facing civil or administrative penalties, as well, as you may still be able to contest those penalties).

Preliminary Hearing: Any time a person is charged with a felony, that person has the right to a preliminary hearing before a formal plea can be entered on that charge. The purpose of this preliminary hearing is to establish that there is probable cause to believe the person committed a the crime and should be required to enter a plea to those charges.

Probable Cause: One of the lower burdens of proof, probable cause is the amount of evidence necessary for an officer to lawfully arrest a person without a warrant as well as to order someone to answer for felony charges. Probable cause exists if there is enough evidence available that a reasonable person could entertain a reasonable belief that the person charged or arrested did in fact commit a crime.

Seek Assistance from an Experienced Criminal Defense Law Firm

Trust Tatum O’Brien of O’Keeffe O’Brien Lyson Attorneys to help guide you through a criminal justice system that is often confusing and bewildering. At O’Keeffe O’Brien Lyson Attorneys, we believe that when you are empowered with knowledge about your charges and your rights, you are able to make better decisions on your own behalf. Contact O’Keeffe O’Brien Lyson Attorneys today to discuss your charges, or call 701-235-8000 or 877-235-8002.